Scroll through the photos below to see why the U.S. has more women’s depth than ever in the marathon.
When it comes to fast women marathon runners in the U.S., Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, Desiree Linden, Deena Kastor and Joan Samuelson have gotten most of the attention over the past several years. And with good reason. They’re the five fastest runners in U.S. history and they account of the 10 fastest times ever run by American runners. While Flanagan, Linden and Goucher finished 1-2-3 in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon and represented the U.S. at the 2012 Olympics, Samuelson is still running strong at age 56. The 1984 Olympic champion set a new U.S. 55-59 age-group record by running 2:52:10 at the Boston Marathon on April 21.
But the U.S. has more depth in the women’s marathon than it has in a long time—perhaps ever.
Other American runners who have run under 2:30 in the past three years include Amy Hastings (2:27:03), Renee Metivier Baillie (2:27:17), Serena Burla (2:28:01), Lauren Kleppin (2:28:48), Annie Bersagel (2:28:59), Stephanie Rothstein (2:29:35), Janet Bawcom (2:29:45) and Clara Santucci (2:29:54).
Becky Wade (2:30:41), Adriana Nelson (2:31:15), Alissa McKaig (2:31:56), Wendy Thomas (2:32:49), Esther Erb (2:33:15) and Melissa Johnson-White (2:32:37) have also run fast times in recent years that suggest they, too, could be on the verge of sub-2:30 efforts. Using 2:33 as a benchmark time, the current era is quite possibly the deepest collection of women marathoners the U.S. has ever had.
Of those runners, Nelson already owns a 2:28:52 PR from 2008 but she ran a solid 2:31:15 in Boston on April 21, the same race where Thomas and Erb lowered their PRs. Bersagel, the 2014 U.S. half marathon champion, won the Dusseldorf Marathon on April 27, while the PR efforts of Kleppin and Wade came in their debut marathons over the past several months.
Plus, although she says she might be done with the marathon from a competitive standpoint, Deena Kastor, now 41, ran a 2:32:39 in March 2013. And there’s Tera Moody, 33, who ran 2:30:53 in Chicago in 2010 but was sidelined with injuries for most of 2012 before coming back to run 2:39:10 in 2013 at a 1:13:25 at the 2014 U.S. half marathon championships.)
Scroll through the photos below of some of the country’s top women marathoners as of this spring.
Bersagel, 31, the 2013 U.S. marathon champion and 2006 U.S.half marathon champion, is perhaps finally coming into her own after focusing on academics and her career for most of her 20s. (She has a master's degree from the University of Minnesota and a law degree from Stanford.) The former Fulbright Scholar who lives in Oslo, Norway, won the Dusseldorf Marathon on April 27 in a PR of 2:28:59. She also placed 13th overall in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships on March 29 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo: PhotoRun.net
A native of Romania who became a U.S. citizen in 2011, Nelson, 34, owns a 2:28:52 PR from 2008. But the 2013 U.S. half marathon champion ran a solid 2:31:15 in Boston on April 21. Photo: PhotoRun.net
Hastings, 30, narrowly missed a chance to run in the London Olympic marathon after finishing fourth at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. (However, she did make the U.S. team in the 10,000-meter run.) Hastings was supposed to run the Boston Marathon but withdrew on April 1 because her training hadn't been up to par. She's twice run low-2:27 marathons, including 2:27:03 while finishing second at the LA Marathon in 2011. Photo: PhotoRun.net
A native of Kenya who became a U.S. citizen in 2010, Bawcom, 35, has had a stellar career as a road racer, but she's rarely run the marathon. Still, she was fast enough to place fifth at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in 2:29:45. Photo: PhotoRun.net
Renee Metivier Baillie
After years focusing on cross country racing and shorter distances on the track, Baille, 32, turned in a stunning debut marathon in Chicago in 2012 with a 2:27:17 effort. Most recently, she placed 20th at the 2014 U.S. half marathon championships in 1:14:55. Photo: PhotoRun.net
Burla, 31, who beat cancer four years ago, ran a 2:28:01 at the Amsterdam Marathon last year—the second fastest time posted by an American woman in 2013—and easily won the U.S. Half Marathon Championship in Houston in January with an impressive 1:10:48. Burla, the mother of a 5-year-old son, was the No. 4 American at the Boston Marathon on April 21 with a 2:32:27 effort. Photo: PhotoRun.net
A former NCAA Division III star at Western State in Colorado, Kleppin, 25, has made huge improvements in 2014. She placed second at the U.S. half marathon championship in January in 1:12:12 and then placed third at the LA Marathon in mid-March in 2:28:48. Photo: PhotoRun.net
McKaig, 28, turned heads with a eighth-place, 2:31:56 effort at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. She left the ZAP Fitness program in in North Carolina and relocated to Washington D.C., where she's training for a fall marathon. Photo: PhotoRun.net
Wade, 24, had never raced longer than 10K in her life before winning last December's California International Marathon in 2:30:41. Prior to that marathon, she had been a yearlong international Thomas J. Watson Fellowship during which she ran 3,000 miles while visiting 22 countries. Photo: Scott Herring
Thomas, 35, has a pretty amazing story. The former college volleyball player and mother of two young boys took up running about six years ago. She placed 12th at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in 2:34:25 and sixth at the 2013 U.S. marathon championships in 2:36:01. She was the fifth U.S. finisher at the Boston Marathon on April 21 in 2:32:49—a PR by almost 2 minutes. Photo: PhotoRun.net
Santucci, 26, made a big splash with a 2:29:54 effort in her debut marathon in Boston in 2011. She's followed that up with a seventh-place, 2:30:46 showing at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, a seventh-place 2:33:24 effort at last spring's Ottawa Marathon and a win at the May 4 Pittsburgh Marathon in 2:32:24. Photo: PhotoRun.net
Johnson-White, 33, a longtime member of the Hansons-Brooks training group, placed 13th in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon and 14th at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. She lowered her PR to 2:32:37 with a 10th-place finish at the 2013 Chicago Marathon. Photo: PhotoRun.net
Rothstein, 30, ran a remarkable 2:29:35 at the 2011 Houston Marathon. She ran her PR half marathon at the 2013 NYC Half (1:10:54) and then finished fourth last June at the U.S. half marathon championships. For now, her training and racing is on hold due to pregnancy. Photo: PhotoRun.net
Erb, 27, placed 27th in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in 2:37:21. Last year she was third in the U.S. marathon championships in 2:34:32. In 2013, she was in Boston cheering on training partner Alissa McKaig and was standing just two blocks away when the bombs exploded. She return this year to finish 20th overall in a new PR of 2:33:15. "That experience just further emphasized how important it was for me to return to Boston and complete my unfinished business there,” she says. Photo: PhotoRun.net
Flanagan, 32, went after the win at the Boston Marathon on April 21, leading most of the first 16 miles of the race. Although she wound up seventh, she set a new PR of 2:22:02, which makes her the No. 3 marathoner in U.S. history behind Deena Kastor and Joan Samuelson. She's also placed second at the 2010 New York City Marathon, won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon and then finished 10th in the marathon at the 2012 Olympics. Photo: PhotoRun.net
Linden, 30, made her mark in the marathon with a oh-so-close runner-up finish at the 2011 Boston Marathon in 2:22:38—she finished just 2 seconds behind winner Caroline Kilel from Kenya. Although she didn't run up to her expectations this year in Boston, her 10th-place 2:23:54 effort was the second-fastest marathon of her career. Other career highlights include a third-place showing at the Chicago Marathon in 2010 and a fifth-place effort at the 2013 Berlin Marathon. Photo: PhotoRun.net
Goucher, 35, finished third in 2008 New York City Marahton, 2009 Boston Marathon and 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. She placed 11th in the 2012 Olympics and sixth in the 2013 Boston Marathon. Her career is in the process of being revamped, having recently moved back to Boulder, Colo., once again training under college coaches Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs and attracing a new portfolio of sponsors in 2014—including Oiselle, Skechers and Nuun. She's recovering from a minor injury but is planning on running a fall marathon in 2014. She's also the mom of a 3-year-old son, too. Photo: Courtesy of Oiselle.
Kastor, 41, was the first American woman to breakthrough at the international level in the 2000s by winning a bronze medal in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She went on to win the 2006 London Marathon in a still-standing American record of 2:19:36. She also won the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon and placed ninth at the 2013 AAF World Championships in Moscow. Although she's mostly focusing on the half marathon—she set a new U.S. masters record in April with a 1:11:38 effort in New York—but she ran a 2:32:39 to place third in the 2013 LA Marathon at age 40, so don't count her out. Photo: PhotoRun.net